A Year in Reading: Bookdwarf

Bookdwarf, who is neither a book nor a dwarf, is the Head Buyer for the independent Harvard Book Store and an inveterate hoarder of galleys and first editions. Her reading interests run across all genres and styles, but her favorites include Haruki Murakami, George Eliot, and Alexander Dumas.I feel like I've said "This is the best book I've read this year" a lot in 2007. What a great year for books. There are a few new ones as well as a few older ones on my list. First, I'll get George Eliot's Middlemarch out of the way. It's simply one of the best books I've ever read. I expect to read this again in a few years and still feel the same, it's that good. It's the kind of book where you're not certain you can make it past the first 100 pages, but what a treat if you do!I loved Danielle Trussoni's Falling Through the Earth, listed as one of the Top Ten Books of 2006 by the New York Times. A spare memoir about her father's experiences as a tunnel rat in Vietnam. She seemed to have gotten post traumatic stress syndrome from the war as well.Shalom Auslander wrote another brilliant memoir, Foreskin's Lament. Dark, scathing, and funny, he writes about his Orthodox Jewish upbringing with a passion I usually reserve for politics.With regard to new fiction, I loved many books this year, but two standouts were Yannick Murphy's Signed, Mata Hari and Benjamin Percy's Refresh, Refresh. These might be two of the best books you haven't read yet.More from A Year in Reading 2007

A Year in Reading: Bookdwarf

I've been reading Megan's blog Bookdwarf for a long time now. I met Megan amidst all the crazy book folk at BEA this year and was surprised to find her not as short as one might have expected. While the name of her blog may be misleading, however, her taste in books can be trusted. As such, here are Megan thoughts on the best books she read this year:I love reading the lists you collect because they give me a chance to reflect on what I've read this year. I feel lucky - I read a lot of great books this year, some old and some new. One of my favorites was Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler, which I was glad was nominated for the National Book Award in Non-Fiction. Hessler, who has lived in China for over ten years and speaks Mandarin fluently, writes about the changes occurring in China today. Not quite a travelogue nor a memoir, it's a cultural portrait of a rapidly changing world. What makes it so great is Hessler's ability to disappear from the narrative and paint a vivid portrait of everyone he meets and everything he sees. He shows us a big picture view with enough complexity and contradiction that we see all nuances.Another favorite this year was Eileen Chang's Love in a Fallen City, part of the NYRB Classics series. First published to great acclaim in Hong Kong in the 40s, Chang's short stories are being published in English for the first time. She writes about men, women, and the ways even the smallest actions or words can transform relationships. The cultural divide in Chinese society between ancient patriarchy and the tumultuous modernity forms the vivid background. The stories seem to be about how life never works out. They're bleak and yet you can't help but be enchanted by the characters.Other books I enjoyed this year were Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Aidichie, whose talented writing enchants this novel about the war in Biafra, and Random Family by Adrian Leblanc, who spent 10 years researching this finely written portrait of an extended family.PS I also second Mark's love for Gregoire Bouillier's Mystery Guest and Ed's love for Echo Maker, not to mention Cormac McCarthy's haunting The Road. I think I'll try to read more older stuff in 2007. It's part of my job to read the new stuff, but there's so much out there already that needs reading.Thanks Megan!